The Twentieth Century Society is tremendously disappointed by the Minister’s decision not to follow the advice of English Heritage and list Birmingham Central Library. EH advice on listing is not often overturned and this is a key case in that regard. Minister Margaret Hodge has made no secret of her personal dislike for post-war buildings and has here failed to understand the basic premise of heritage protection in England.
Listing Birmingham’s impressive brutalist library would not prevent renovation work, or even a well-designed radical makeover. Libraries need to be flexible as the services they provide will continue to evolve. We believe not only that the Central Library is historically and architecturally significant, but that it is capable of being adapted for the needs of 21st century Birmingham. What listing would do is make sure that proposals took into account the historic interest of these structures rather than seeking to change or even demolish them.
One of the key strengths of our heritage system is that listing is decided purely on the basis of architectural or historic interest. This then allows a detailed analysis of economic viability and wider social issues to follow. BCL, designed by one of Birmingham’s most accomplished architectural sons, John Madin, could have another life. The Twentieth Century Society will continue working alongside the local groups who have done so much to push the debate forward.
For more information please contact Jon Wright at the Twentieth Century Society on 020 7250 3857 or by email – Jon.Wright(at)c20society.org.uk